true crime

In 2004, Megan started to read a true-crime book. She didn't realise it was about her own mother.

This post deals with violence against women, sexual assault and child abuse and could be triggering for some readers.

In 2004, Megan Dufresne picked up a true crime book called A Beautiful Child and started to read. Megan would later discover the book was about her biological mother, a woman who died under suspicious circumstances 14 years earlier.

Suzanne Sevakis was a brilliant and beautiful American student whose future was filled with promise – until her murderous, fugitive 'father' drew her into a lifetime of deception. 

Netflix's new true crime documentary Girl In The Picture follows the story of Suzanne – a girl who was abducted by Franklin Delano Floyd as a child and raised by him. For the rest of her short life, she grew up believing Floyd was her father. It was an abusive environment. 

Floyd and Suzanne were on the run for years, with Floyd forcing Suzanne to go by numerous aliases in order to hide her away from the world. Once she was a teenager, Suzanne fell pregnant on at least two occasions – one child, Megan, was given up for adoption, the other, Michael, she kept. Floyd continued to abuse Suzanne and even marry her, with the pair eventually settling in Oklahoma before she died in 1990 under suspicious circumstances. 

She was only 20 when she was killed in a car hit and run. 

Floyd has never been charged in relation to Suzanne's death, but he was a suspect. He was however, charged with the murder of Suzanne's second child, Michael. He was also charged with the murder of Cheryl Ann Commesso, one of the women Suzanne worked with at a strip club. He remains on death row and is a convicted murderer and rapist.

When Suzanne died, her real identity was still unknown to the public. No one knew she was the girl who had been abducted from her biological parents so many years ago. It was a complex and murky storyline.

Watch: Girl In The Picture official trailer. Post continues below.


Video via Netflix.

Someone who was determined to uncover the truth was Matt Birkbeck – an American author. At the time, Suzanne was only known by the alias 'Sharon Marshall' a name Floyd had given her. 

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So when Birkbeck wrote about 'Sharon Marshall' and her story in A Beautiful Child, it spurred numerous sleuths to try to find the 20-year-old girl's real identity. 

And one of these sleuths was Megan Dufresne.

When Birkbeck's book came out, Megan poured over it, as did her adoptive parents – because they recognised the woman on the cover. To Megan's adoptive parents, they saw a woman who had given her child up for adoption in 1989. 

Her adoptive mother Mary had met Suzanne and Floyd at the very beginning of the adoption process. Floyd wanted money, controlled the conversation and made Mary uncomfortable. When Mary got to the hospital to collect baby Megan, she went to see how Suzanne was doing after just giving birth. 

"She was in the bed and I went privately to go speak to her," Mary reflected in Girl In The Picture

"I asked her if she wanted to see her newborn daughter, and she said no. I think back on this day and wish she could have asked me for help [so that she could escape from Floyd]. The minute Floyd came into the room, everything stopped – the whole conversation between her and I."

A year after giving birth to Megan, Suzanne was dead.

Image: Berkley Publishing/Netflix.

When Megan came across A Beautiful Child, she was a junior in high school. She told her adoptive mother about it, and they got in touch with Birkbeck.

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Megan and Mary decided to anonymously email Birkbeck saying: 'Would the DNA of this woman's daughter help you to uncover her real identity?'

Megan offered her DNA to Birkbeck and investigators, who through analysis of hers and Suzanne's DNA, discovered it was a positive match. They were related – biologically mother and daughter. 

For the next few years, Birkbeck in partnership with the National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children, conducted DNA testing on relatives of several girls who went missing in the early 1970s.

And eventually in 2014, they discovered who Suzanne was: her backstory, her parents who she had been abducted from – the full picture. The discovery was made through DNA, and also through an admission by Floyd, who was in prison. 

Suzanne's parents were Sandra Francis Brandenburg and Cliff Sevakis, and they had four children – Suzanne, Allison, Amy and Philip. Suzanne's mother Sandra had divorced Cliff, and soon after began a relationship with Floyd. Only months later did Floyd abduct Suzanne and take her as his own.

It was an overwhelming experience for Megan, realising who her biological mum was, and the things Suzanne had endured. 

"I learned a lot that I don't like to think about, about her life," Megan said. "No girl should have to go through that – from a stranger, no less a father or father figure in her life. That's the part I don't like to think about. The more I learned the angrier and sadder I got about everything."

Megan with her adoptive mother, her aunt and author Matt Birkbeck. Image: mattbirkbeck.com Megan is now married with two boys of her own. In the documentary, she spoke about wanting to live up to the memory of her birth mother, hoping to one day become as strong a mother as she believes Suzanne would've been, if it weren't for Floyd. 

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Megan's biological father remains publicly unknown, although it's alleged that it's Floyd. 

In honour of Suzanne and, Megan's brother Michael – who was murdered by Floyd – Megan named one of her sons after Michael. 

"Michael didn't get to live out his name, and I wanted that name to keep going," she said in Girl In The Picture.

In 2017, Suzanne was laid to rest and given an accurate tombstone. Before, her tombstone only had one of her first-name aliases written on it. Now with the correct identity, Birkbeck, Megan and Suzanne's surviving family and friends ordered a new tombstone that reads: "Suzanne Marie Sevakis. September 6, 1969 - April 30, 1990. A devoted mother and friend."

Reflecting on the loss, Megan said that it's been difficult to unearth the tragic story behind her birth. 

"Becoming a parent gave me even more respect for my birth mother, because she gave up two children – if not more – knowing it was better for the kids. I know this story is going to help somebody – I just have got to figure out all the pieces [emotionally], and how it has shaped me, and then I know I'm going to be able to properly share my story."

If this post brings up any issues for you, you can contact Bravehearts (an organisation providing support to victims of child abuse)  here.

If you are concerned about the welfare of a child you can get advice from the Child Abuse Protection Hotline by calling 1800 688 009, or visiting this website. You can also call the 24-hour Child Abuse Report Line (131 478).

If this post brings up any issues for you, or if you just feel like you need to speak to someone, please call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) - the national sexual assault, domestic and family violence counselling service. It doesn’t matter where you live, they will take your call and, if need be, refer you to a service closer to home.

You can also call safe steps 24/7 Family Violence Response Line on 1800 015 188 or visit www.safesteps.org.au for further information.

The Men's Referral Service is also available on 1300 766 491 or via online chat at www.ntv.org.au.

Feature Image: Netflix/Berkley Publishing.

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